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Integrated Compressed Air Foam

Systems for Fixed Piping Networks

ICAF Case Study Series:

Protection of High Voltage Power


Transformers

Doc. FM-072M-0-216 A May 2006


Case Study Series – Power Transformers
ICAF ® Compressed Air Foam Systems

Overview readily available in these large quantities. Water


reservoirs have to be built (often underground) to
In our modern societies we are using a lot of accommodate this large demand. They require an
technology in our day to day life to the point where we initial investment that is fairly high for the utility
have grown to be totally dependent upon electrical company and they also need regular maintenance,
power, both in our private lives and in most commercial factors that are rarely included in the fire protection
or industrial activities. contractor's proposal.
Power utilities have installed power substations in their Even when water is available in these quantities,
distribution grids to accommodate the ever increasing powerful fire pumps will be needed to provide water at
demand for dependable power with their rows of large a sufficiently high pressure to achieve the goals of the
high voltage power transformers. Many precautions fire protection system. Infrastructure costs for the
are taken to safeguard them against failure because utility company rise rapidly, to the point where some of
when all power fails, customers complain, revenues them don't protect their transformers at all and will
are lost and medical emergencies can even happen. simply provide passive protection measures such as
firewalls.
One of the risks these large transformers are subjected
to is fire. Although the manufacturers of these oil filled Then, when a fire happens, so much water is
transformers are building them with many imbedded discharged by the fire department on the flaming
safety features, when they fail they often produce very transformer to cool it and control the fire that soon, the
large fires that are very hard to extinguish and provoke curbs built around it overflow and hot transformer oil is
environmental damages by the release of thick black spilled around, compounding the problem with the
toxic smoke and spilling of transformer oil. possibility of burn back and now creating an
environmental problem that also has to be dealt with.
This is why more and more utilities are installing fire
protection systems to protect their investment and to
prevent such fires. Containment curbs and runoff Design with ICAF
water catch basins are also built around the
A solution to these problems is now available using
transformers to prevent oil spills in case of problems.
FireFlex Systems ICAF Integrated Compressed Air
Foam system for fixed piping network.
Problems with the use of This new FM Approved AFFF foam system allows the
traditional technologies designer to alleviate many of these potential problems
while providing superior fire protection (AFFF stands
When they are protected, most high voltage power
for Aqueous Film Forming Foam and is a fire fighting
transformers are with a deluge sprinkler system and
foam widely used in the industry to extinguish fires in
designers use NFPA-15 as a guide to design a system
hydrocarbon fuels such as transformer oil).
that will cool off the transformer and eventually,
extinguish the fire. NFPA-11, TIA #05-1 in art. 7.15.1 states that where
fixed spray type systems are used to protect 3
Typical design calls for a grid of open type
dimensional equipment like power transformers, the
deluge/spray nozzles to be installed all around the
minimum density shall be applied over the projected
transformer. A typical system will use about 44 of
area of rectangular prism envelope for the equipment
them and will be designed to spray about 500gpm of
and its appurtenances. Furthermore, system
water for a duration of one (1) hour. That is a lot of
discharge duration shall be designed for a minimum
water !
period of 5 minutes (art. 7.16).
NFPA-850 for Power Plant Design goes even farther,
Using FireFlex Systems FM Approved ICAF Design
requesting water spray duration to last a full two (2)
Manual, the designer will locate a grid of local
hours ! But minimum provisions for drainage are
application nozzles to cover the transformer's surfaces,
specified to be only large enough to contain the spill
based of the published square area of coverage versus
from the largest single container of any flammable or
mounting distance ratio of the TAR-225L Nozzles. But
combustible liquid in the area and for fixed fire
because of the coverage area of each nozzle and the
suppression systems operating for a minimum of 10
dense texture of Compressed Air Foam, the spray
minutes !
nozzles grid all around the transformer uses much less
A lot of power substations are located in remote areas, nozzles than the equivalent deluge system.
or on the outskirts of towns where water is often not

FM-072M-0-216 A
Case Study Series – Power Transformers
®
ICAF Compressed Air Foam Systems
Figure 1 – Detail of the nozzles grid around a typical transformer:
The quantity of foam concentrate is also reduced by
using the ICAF Systems since its high efficiency is
achieved while using only a 2% concentration of AFFF
foam concentrate instead of the usual 3% !
For a typical high voltage power transformer such as
the one shown in Figures 1 & 2 below, ICAF Systems
are designed at the much lower water flow rate of
95gpm and will need a grid of only 16 nozzles.
Because of the much shorter discharge time of 5
minutes, the total water quantity will be dramatically
reduced; only about 475 gallons of water will now be
needed to completely suppress the fire while providing
protection against burn-back, which deluge systems
cannot do. FRONT VIEW

Immediately, one can see that the need for large


reservoirs, pumps, containment dikes etc. is not
necessary anymore and the utility company is now
making large savings, while having a much more
efficient fire protection system protecting its
investment.
This small amount of water, foam and transformer oil
can now be easily pumped after a fire and treated.
Possibilities of damages to the environment are much
reduced because the risk of overflowing water and
transformer oil over the containment curb is eliminated.
Water requirements comparison table:
TOP VIEW
Deluge System ICAF System
Number of Nozzles 44 16
Water Flow 500 gpm 95 gpm
Drainage Required 5,000 gals (10 min.) 475 gals (5 min.)

Project Scope of Work


Typically, a power transformer fire will involve both a
cascading fire from the oil coming from the expansion
tank situated at the top of the casing and a pool fire in
the curb surrounding the transformer, which makes
them very difficult to extinguish.
Figure 1 below shows a typical ICAF System
SIDE VIEW
installation with its grid of discharge nozzles installed
around the transformer. A first row of nozzles will be
aimed at the top of the transformer casing to extinguish
flames from the pooling transformer oil on the top of
the transformer casing. A second row will be installed
as shown to protect the sides of the transformer
casing, extinguishing the cascading fire. Foam
accumulation in the curb will handle the burning oil by
covering the surface. Other nozzles as shown will be
located to properly cover the shape of the oil
expansion tank.

FM-072M-0-216 A
Case Study Series – Power Transformers
ICAF ® Compressed Air Foam Systems

Figure 2 – 3D view of a typical ICAF balanced piping grid:


Conclusions
Fire protection designers now have an additional
weapon in their arsenal of fire combat tools. The ICAF
technology is emerging as an environmentally friendly
solution for protection of power transformers and other
similar hazards.
Special considerations need to be given to the nozzle
layout for this kind of hazard since power transformer
configurations vary. ICAF Systems are so efficient at
extinguishing this type of fire, full-scale fire tests have
demonstrated total suppression will be achieved three
times faster than a typical deluge system !
With ICAF Systems installed in their power plants,
As shown above, the resulting balanced flow piping is utilities can now better protect their investment while
much simpler to install and of smaller diameter than achieving quicker and total suppression in case of
the equivalent deluge grid system, reducing the costs accidental fires.
for the installing contractor.
Should you have questions regarding this application
The ICAF System itself also has a small footprint (see or any other involving flammable liquid hazards,
Figure 3 below) and can even be skid mounted for contact FireFlex Systems Inc. Our engineers will work
more flexibility. The foam concentrate is stored in a the project with you and find the best layout for your
non-pressurized tank of only 10 gallons capacity and specific application.
does not use bladders or complicated inductors and
trims. The entire foam trim is actually factory-built in a
user-friendly cabinet !
A bank of three high pressure compressed air cylinders
is supplied to provide the pressure to the system so the
existing water pressure can be used to feed the
system.
Figure 3 – Foot print of a typical transformer ICAF System.

FireFlex Systems Inc.


1935 Lionel-Bertrand Blvd.
Boisbriand, QC, Canada J7H 1N8
T: 450-437-3473 Toll free: (866) 347-3353
Fax: (450) 437-1930

For additional information about ICAF Systems, please


visit our web site at: http://www.fireflex.com

FM-072M-0-216 A